Ah, May…caught somewhere between Easter and the peak tourist season. Warmer and drier than April, but not as hot as the summer.
In other words, a decent time to visit Vienna. Particularly if you enjoy your music, food and drink, for May is a month full of classical and culinary festivals.
Top activities in May 2023
So, aside from the usual museums, galleries and other sights, what does May offer the discerning visitor to Vienna?
Art fairs & exhibitions in May
(Expect something good at the Albertina Modern)
Only a few locations have already announced any exhibitions for May. Highlights so far include:
- The Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien plans the largest solo exhibition to date for Kiki Kogelnik
- The Kunsthistorisches Museum’s special coin exhibition (Around the World in 80 Coins) continues
- We may have a lovely exhibition at Belvedere exploring some of the influences (like van Gogh) on Gustav Klimt (provisionally until May 29th)
- The Theatermuseum introduces us to the joys of Vienna’s popular music in the widest sense of the expression with the Austropop exhibition
- The MAK showcases the work of the Hagenauer metal art workshop that came into existence during the era of the Wiener Moderne
- For more exhibition choices, keep an eye on the listings as programmes develop.
And a couple of bonus tips for those with a hankering for creativity (all took place in May in 2022, but I don’t have 2023 dates at the time of writing):
- The Edelstoff design market
- The Art Austria art fair
- The Parallel Editions version of Parallel Vienna, which puts the focus on art editions
Bring a glass
Not all the slopes in Austria are for skiing down.
The country has a lot of vineyards (as does Vienna itself). Last time I checked the statistics, Austrians also drink more beer per head than anybody except our thirsty Czech neighbours.
Vienna’s bars and restaurants allow you to taste the local beers and wines, or you can visit these festivals in May:
- The two-day spring version of the Craft Bier Fest (2023 dates TBA) attracts dozens of breweries from around the country and abroad, who are all happy to provide a sample for you to taste in exchange for a coin or two
- The city-owned Cobenzl winery normally has an open day mid-May (2023 dates TBA), which is free. Though you do have to pay if you want to try some of the (excellent) wines. The winery also sits on a hill with lovely views across the city
- If the idea of wine sounds tempting, then consider the VieVinum, an international wine festival at the Hofburg palace (the next one is slated for May 25th to 27th, 2024).
- Lifting the alcohol content a little, the Vienna Gin Festival is scheduled for May 12th and 13th
Bring a plate
A fine glass of wine or beer goes better with a fine dish of regional food. And, as luck would have it, there are plenty of food festivals in May, too.
- Burgenland is a small province east of Vienna, and the Burgenland Kultinarium festival (planned for May 22nd to 24th) encourages you to learn about the area with the help of large quantities of its wonderful food and drink
- The 3-day Waldviertelpur festival (2023 dates TBA) features the best of the Waldviertel region (a rural area northwest of Vienna). This includes their rather hearty cuisine, particularly a myriad different things you can do with poppy seeds
- The Genuss Festival in the Stadtpark (2023 dates TBA) showcases the best of Austria’s agricultural and viticultural regions
- The European Street Food festival (2023 dates TBA) rolls into town with trucks and stalls tempting you with a wide diversity of culinary delights from around the globe
- The Wiener Zitrustage or Vienna Citrus Days (May 18th to 21st) add a little fizz and colour to the month in the rather apt location of the Schönbrunn Palace orangery
- The Bauernmarkt unter Palmen occupied the palm house in the central Burggarten park for three days for the first time in May 2022. We shall see if this pop-up market featuring small-scale farmers and food start ups from the Vienna region repeats
Find accommodation in May
(Service provided by booking.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
Enjoy the music & celebrations
The 2023 May festivals don’t end there, either.
- The Vienna Blues Spring festival extended throughout May in 2022 with appearances by local and international performers. I await news if this longer timeline happens again in 2023
- The Donaukanaltreiben festival (2023 dates TBA) celebrates urban life with a party-like atmosphere down by the Danube Canal that runs alongside Vienna’s city centre. Think live music, bars, street food, flea markets and similar
- The Konzerthaus begins the 40th International Music Festival on May 29th
- The Fest der Freude (May 8th) celebrates the liberation of Vienna and the end of Nazi rule with a free concert on Heldenplatz square next to the Hofburg palace. The Vienna Symphony orchestra performs, with the event also in remembrance of those who suffered at the hands of that occupation
(Heldenplatz – home to the Fest der Freude open-air concert)
Go for a swim (or run)
Vienna’s numerous outdoor public swimming facilities should open up for the summer from early May. These include:
- Family facilities, with shallow pools and family-friendly prices
- Multipurpose facilities, with both indoor and outdoor pools
- Summer facilities with open-air pools only, including large riverside recreational areas such as the Gänsehäufel
A running event typically held in May is the Wings for Life World Run with a flagship event in Vienna om May 7th.
Buy some popcorn
International film festivals normally fill Viennese screens during May. For example (all 2023 dates TBA):
- The Jewish Film Festival shows local and international movies that explore Jewish life in all its forms and contexts (from April 20th and usually extending into early May)
- The Ethnocineca international documentary film festival focuses on critical evaluation of social, political and cultural structures
- The Festival du Film Francophone brings the brilliance of French-speaking cinema to Vienna
Enjoy the flowers
By early May, the spring flower displays planted by the city or national parks authorities are normally in full bloom. Try, for example:
- Schönbrunn Palace – the landscaped gardens in front of the palace are gorgeous. But also take the time to drop into the Kronprinzengarten, a privy garden with geometric shapes made of flower beds and different-coloured gravel
- The Rathauspark – the park surrounding the Rathausplatz square in the centre is usually full of tulips
- The gardens between the two Baroque palaces at Belvedere should have a flower or three by now
- The Volksgarten – a public gardens opposite the Rathausplatz and home to hundreds of different rose varieties
- Hirschstetten – a large (and beautiful) landscaped gardens and park area that actually serves as a plant nursery facility for the city